A fantastic discovery at the recent BVE exposition in London where I was primarily looking at new developments in LED lighting for video and film.
1. My primary area of interest in attending was LED light technology because I figured that’s where the industry is heading. And I was right. Boy, they sure have made fantastic advances. Prices are still high but they will come down.
The first thing I noticed is that they’ve been making the equivalent of 1K and 2K fresnel lamps (focusable point source lights). The run and gunner doesn’t really need anything that powerful, BUT–that means we’re no longer restricted to soft box lighting as the only practical means of lighting location shots. Fresnels are lenses on lamps that allow you to ‘spot’ and ‘flood’ a light. And, being a point source, you can also easily control (with barn doors or external flags and gobos) where the light hits. This is what Hollywood uses to light sets.
Anyway, they also had smaller point source LED lamps, but from what I saw, they dropped down to the 100 watt range. There were a lot of these tiny focusable LED lights complete with barn doors, but oddly I didn’t see anything in a mid-range equal to, say, a 500 watt tungsten lamp.
While that was good news generally, that’s not what I was looking for. I was looking for a quality replacement for what I currently use which is flouro soft boxes which, with the biggest bulb, barely equate to a 300 watt tungsten halogen. And these are the things that most run and gunners are using. You really have to get them close to achieve any sort of modelling in a typical corporate shoot in a daylight lit room.
There have been LED panels available for a few years that weren’t much better in term of luminance. And most came from China.
This is the area that has seen fantastic improvement. There was a plethora of LED light panels of various sizes. And the main thing I noticed was that they were all amazingly BRIGHT. Furthermore, most companies provided a model that will give you both daylight and tungsten (interior) colour balance.
But they’re still rather pricey. At least now, if you can afford them, they’ve got enough ‘umph’ to way outdo anything you can do with the current flourescent soft boxes. And they come with various filters that can either focus that output to a 30% area, or diffuse it further. And they’re dimmable, controllable from smartphones, and all sorts of fancy usable stuff like that.
However, it wasn’t until I found one small booth that I got really excited.
Let me explain:
There were half a dozen or more companies offering some very attractive and high quality LED panels ranging from about £400 to almost £1000. I’m talking small panels such as a run and gunner would use for interviews. The high-end expensive ones were worth it for what they could do. But still, that’s a lot of money.
The one thing common to ALL of them was that they came in metal housings with barn doors and slots for filters, jacks for batteries, and control panels on the back. I wasn’t expecting anything else….
Until I found this small booth.
What caught my attention was an LED panel wrapped around a 1 liter water bottle sitting on a desk. I noticed it while talking to an American that was responsible for a very high quality German design which I quite liked (but which was a tad expensive).
It was brilliant.
That little LED panel is probably what is behind most of the other LED panel designs. I mean, if you looked inside of their fancy aluminum panels, essentially what you’d find is what this guy was selling without the fancy box. And it was flexible.
So here was this amazingly bright LED panel on a flexible backing that could be velcroed to a wall or put in the very simple frame provided so that it could be put on any light stand or clamp. I asked if it was durable. To answer that he threw it down on the ground, still lit. Yeah, it’s durable.
At the show he had a softbox (which was a prototype, not yet available) that could be affixed to the supporting frame .
But the whole thing was feather weight and would take up practically no room in your light case.
It’s currently only available in 56K colour temp, but he says they’ll soon have a bi-colour version of the same.
THIS is the one you want! It’s still about £400 or so with its controller (I forget the exact price), but of everything I saw, this is the one that got me excited.
Furthermore, unlike the cheap Chinese ones you can get on eBay, this one is close too 100% accurate on colour temperature (as most of these products that I saw at the show were). And, it’s really BRIGHT!
That said, there was another really clever one that caught my attention. It’s expensive, but very clever. It’s an LED block system whereby you can plug 2 or more together to whatever size or configuration you want. I’ll just give the link so you can check it out. They’re made in France: Exalux